Role: Assurance Associate
Company: Grant Thornton
University: University of Aberdeen
Q. Did you receive any formal training before starting your job at Grant Thornton? What were the key skills that you have learned during your training?
Before starting with Grant Thornton there was no training, however internal training programs are ran throughout the first few months as well as time spent at Kaplan learning for the ICAEW exams. The internally ran courses take place at a National Trust residence in Buckinghamshire called Bradenham Manor, which Grant Thornton lease and use for all courses and training. The set up at Bradenham an Kaplan are both relaxed yet work intensive, with emphasis placed upon the importance of listening and understanding the vast amounts of new information given to you on a daily basis.
For me the most important thing about being a new starter is don’t be afraid to ask questions. People know that you’re new and, despite what you may think, they don’t expect you to know everything or even learn it all first time. Ask if you’re unsure, be it with a small detail or an entire process, as people would much rather you asked and then did the work well, than struggle in silence and it all need re-doing.
Q. Describe in brief what happened on your first day at work?
I actually started several weeks before the rest of the graduate intake, and due to having completed an internship at Grant Thornton the summer before I wasn’t too nervous about my first day as I knew the office and many of the people already. My day was spent with the usual formalities of the office tour, health and safety induction, getting set up with a laptop and the phones in the office and completing the office induction workshops online. I also met with my line manager and we briefly discussed the upcoming months and what it was I was hoping to get out of my first few months on the job. At lunch time we went out to a local pub for something to eat and a drink with some of the team, although we only had the one pint!
Q. Did your first week on the job change your initial expectations of your role?
In a word, no. Having the benefit of an internship I knew, by and large, what was going to be expected of me in my role. Grant Thornton place great importance on taking on responsibility at an early stage, and although you aren’t going to be sent out to a big clients on your own, you won’t be stood photocopying and making cups of coffee all day. One thing that did surprise me on the job was the remarkably small number of people who’d done accounting at university, and that having no prior knowledge of the subject wasn’t a massive hindrance to me or the teams I worked on.
Q. Most embarrassing incident on your first week?
I can honestly say that my first week passed without embarrassment. On my first Friday there was an office social and, although a few of the boys fell asleep in a bar at around 2am, I managed to keep my eyes open and my legs underneath me. At least until all the managers and partners had gone home.
Q. Imagine one of your friends was starting on an assurance associate graduate scheme at Grant Thornton, what advice would you give him/her?
Be keen, and I mean this in its broadest sense. Be it seeking out work, asking questions, developing an actual understanding of the tests you’re undertaking or just getting to know people around the office. In any firm it can be very easy to just slide from day to day without being noticed, and many people may find it easier and safer to operate in this manner. Don’t fall in to the trap. Put yourself out there, speak to people of all levels. If you pass a manager/partner/director in the office introduce yourself, tell them a little about you and how you’re looking forward to working at the firm. Obviously don’t go over the top and give them a life story and how it’s been your life ambition to work for this firm, but enough so that they remember you. As you progress through the firm relationships with people above you, as well as on your level, are going to be key in maximizing your growth and development as a professional.
Also, it’s absolutely fine to be nervous. In fact if you aren’t even a little nervous, you probably should be.
Q. Which task made you most nervous during your first week of work?
With not even having a firm grasp on what debits and credits were, pretty much everything I was given made me nervous during my first week. I felt like it was important to get thing right first time, every time. This was a totally unrealistic expectation of myself and one I wouldn’t advise anyone to place on themselves. People don’t mind you getting things wrong, but make sure you learn from whatever mistakes you make as if you keep on making them then someone is bound to get a little peeved.
Q. Any great perks/benefit in the office?
There’s a huge sports and social side to office life, with regular drinks evenings as well as football, cricket, golf and several other sports teams which are all funded by the firm and encourage participation from anyone who is keen to be involved. There is also an annual 5-a-side football tournament which all offices from the UK, Ireland and the occasional few from the continent enter each summer. The firm pays for the hiring of a football centre with astroturf pitches and there are men’s and women’s tournaments, including a cup and a plate, which are conducted throughout the day. Each year the host city of the tournament is awarded to whichever office won the men’s main tournament the previous year. Every year there are multiple attempts at match fixing to ensure one of the German or Irish offices win, however some people’s competitive side seems to get the better of them and it never seems to pan out that way.
Q. What did you enjoy the most during your first week at Grant Thornton?
For me it was the variety of experiences. I worked on a number of different clients ranging in size and industry, visited a host of different places around the country, went on several social events with people from work as well as the National Induction for all graduates which was held at the Tower Hotel in London, and included a Thames cruise on the first night complete with a 3 course meal cooked by chefs from Jamie Oliver’s restaurants and the obligatory free bar. I also got to spend a week at our internal training centre, Bradenham Manor, where I learnt that croquet is definitely not a sport for people from the North!
Q. What is the thing that you dislike the most about your job?
Early mornings. Having to set your alarm for a time you only ever previously saw coming home after a night out is by far the most depressing thing about the job. Saying that, they do get easier and it is something you’re going to have to get used to.
Q. Top tip for your friend facing a final round interview, could you share it with us please?
Preparation is key. Know your audience, the people you’re going to be interviewed by at this final stage will have done this sort of thing a thousand times before and you won’t be able to blag your way through an answer. Prior research of the firm – its values, services, clients – will all be important. Read up on any current issues that may affect the firm, directly or indirectly, and be willing to offer you opinion on such matters. Deliver your answers with confidence, because if you aren’t convincing yourself then you certainly won’t be convincing anyone else.
Q. Do you often have après work drinks with your colleagues? Have you got any interesting stories from your work outings you would like to share with us?
I usually go for drinks with colleagues once a week, usually a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Now that the football season is in full flow there’s usually a decent midweek match on that a few people will be keen to watch, and if not then most of the office are usually up for a couple on a Friday after a hard week. As far as interesting stories go there aren’t too many from the office, however on a training course one of the new starters had one or two too many and ended up waking up in some woman’s garden at 6am. Not knowing where he was he knocked on the door and asked if he could sleep on the couch, safe to say his request was denied and he was sent on his way to get a taxi back.
Q. Three words to describe your first impressions.
Exciting. Diverse. Rewarding.